Monday, November 17, 2008
Greater Than One - brainwashed reissues
Greater Than One first caught my ear through their contribution ('The Dark Streets Of London') to the classic 1987 Placebo Records compilation, 'Dry Lungs III'. The following year, I snapped up their CD 'London' on higher profile Wax Trax! Records. The combination of politically-charged commentary, surrealist humour, and avante-electro rhythms was intelligent, and more in line with 'art-terrorism' than 'industrial rock'. Their single, 'I Don't Need God' (which even got airplay on MTV!), further evidenced that GTO were far more than 'a good beat to dance to'.
Using the address listed in the 'Dry Lungs III' notes, I wrote Lee Newman and Michael Wells requesting an interview for my zine, Godsend. They very cordially responded, and sent a series of images, art collages, and their early experimental cassette, 'Kill The Pedagogue'. Normally, my zine ran an interview with one musical artist, alongside short fictional pieces. The wealth of info that Greater Than One had sent me was so overwhelmingly pertinent and interesting, I decided to dedicate an entire issue to them, re-collaging and arranging their art around the interview. This 'Greater Than One' issue was printed in a few hundred copies and distributed internationally, and was met with mostly confusion and bewilderment. I continued to follow Newman and Wells' paths for several years towards their techno and rave phase, where I lost touch. Looking back, they created some of the most strikingly original electronic sounds of their day, and unfortunately, most of this work has remained criminally out of print. Thanks to Jon Whitney for making Greater Than One's timeless music available once again.
Greater Than One - "Kill The Pedagogue" CD
This short 32-minute early cassette release (here lovingly remastered for CD and issued in a tasteful letterpress card sleeve, and limited to 500 pieces) presents some of the earliest (1985) experiments from GTO's Lee Newman and Michael Wells, and it's a very rhythmic proto-industrial vibe - tape voices, tribal beats, and surreal noise. Definitely a product of it's era, and the dark nature of this recording led to the duo's appearance on similarly-minded Graeme Revell and Brian Lustmord's Side Effects label in 1987. Also included here, in mp3 file format, is the entire 'Lay Your Penis Down' tape - a more subtle, minimalist excursion resplendent in odd beats and early tapes/sampling experiments.
Greater Than One - "All The Masters Licked Me" 2xCD
This is the 1987 LP that followed 'Pedagogue', and it's a more highly-evolved and diverse set of moody post-industrial vibes, showing hints of new life amongst the ruins of the industrial culture. Most of the songs here are brief and instrumental, and highlights include 'The Rape Of Sam The Fox' - a heavy-handed, percussive cut that would fit well alongside early Laibach, and 'Kill That Parent' - a lighter, gentler, even contemplative piece with a sort of exotic feel - proving that Newman and Wells were always seeking new sounds and directions, even this early on in their careers. Other vignettes successfully create a series of moods, textures, and atmospheres, most of which border on the late-night and paranoiac. The haunting 'Psychotherapy' brings to mind Anthony Perkins, somehow, and 'Sweet Satellite' visits a far-off tribal ceremony with hand-drums and chants. 'We Hate America And American Hates Us', as well as 'We're OK' herald their heavy-sampling dialogue-oriented later work, as well as highlight the group's humour and political bend. Odd and enchanting sounds that easily double as a surreal soundtrack. Appended to this already well-stacked release is another disc, this one containing the whole of the 'Trust' cassette, which was a 2-track, 32-minute electronic soundtrack of sorts, more in line with the group's earliest post-industrial experiments. (Brainwashed Archives)
Greater Than One - "London" 2xCD + DVD
'London', originally released as a double-album in 1990, with it's intensively sampled media cutup glory, bridged the gap between GTO's industrial past and their acid house/techno future. Filled to the brim with big beats, electronic effects, and cleverly manipulated pop-culture debris, Newman and Wells make a variety of points (politically and artistically) with these heavily-danceable cuts. The MLK-sampling, hip-hop-infused 'Now Is The Time' could be seen as a call to arms, and 'Everybody's Crazy (Except Us)' brings a deft sense of humor and irony alongside the pounding beats and tribal chants. The hilarious 'Song For England' is an indictment of GTO's home country - samples of a bloke stating 'I'm deaf, I'm dumb, I'm blind' repeated to infinity alongside a steadily-building symphonic accompaniment. Truly a landmark cut, and as innovative as works by peers like Meat Beat Manifesto or Coldcut, easily. 'Techno Golden Beat' is majestic, joining dynamic orchestral samples with weird vocal splicings and clever sound manipulations. 'Peace' is a driving proto-techno piece, and 'Computer Dub' is a weird collision of media snippets and sound effects - all meshed around a dysfunctional rhythm of sorts. By the time the set gets around to what would be side 4, 'The Dark Streets Of London' brings the journey around to a shadowy, seedier underbelly of jolly ol' England. Terrific work, and definitely aging very well, thanks very much. Disc 2 contains 'Dance Of The Cowards' - a previously vinyl-only early mix/version of 'London', and appends some rare comp tracks for added value. This is a comprehensive set, indeed. The DVD includes Greater Than One's rare videos (including the 'hit' 'I Don't Need God') plus some concert/installation films. A tremendous set full of tense electronic sounds, big beat fun, and highly insightful socio-political commentary. (Brainwashed Archives)
Greater Than One - "G-Force" 3xCD
Greater Than One's final full-length release before they evolved into various pseudonyms (including acronym GTO, Tricky Disco, and Technohead), this 1989 Wax Trax! release showed Newman and Wells moving ever closer to the emerging acid house scene of the time. Armed with loads of samples from everything and anything, this set of intensely danceworthy tunes takes cues from Kraftwerk, Public Enemy, and visual artists, among others, and this mix was simultaneously bewildering (the group's surrealist, art-conscious references went far over the heads of most of their listening audience, unfortunately) and refreshing. Greater Than One's production here was thunderous and clear, allowing the space for massive orchestral/choral samples to share the atmospheres with the crushing electro-rhythms and masterful sequencing. If their political commentary/intentions are included here, they are far more submerged and sublime, yet still clever and amicably clubby. 'Why Do Men Have Nipples?' is a hilarious send-up of dating TV shows, leaving this set on a cynical but light-hearted note. The bonus discs include the entirety of the 'I Don't Need God' single, the 'Utopia' single, and the 'Index' EP (which includes the genius parody 'Metal), not to mention almost 2 hours worth of unreleased and rare tracks from the era in mp3 form. Again, Brainwashed has assembled a superlative and comprehensive set that sums up the entire recorded output of the duo under this name. Simply amazing, and well worth every penny. (Brainwashed Archives)
Greater Than One site